Taxes subject of public meeting
By Joshua Maloni
The Village of Lewiston Board of Trustees will present the proposed 2019-20 budget to the public for the first time, ahead of its monthly meeting at 6 p.m. Monday.
Elected leaders are considering a tax raise – which would be the first one in four years. Following a work session with department heads this week, the tentative budget is $3.72 million. The preliminary tax rate is $7.57 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, which is 19 cents higher than the current rate. This figure falls within New York state’s 2% tax increase cap.
“We’re not done with it yet,” Mayor Anne Welch said Thursday. “We’re still crunching numbers and trying to work everything out; make sure that our employees are taken care of, and we’re staying under the tax cap.”
As in past fiscal years, the municipality is facing increases in insurance costs and public safety. What’s new this time around is the price of progress. More money has been earmarked for what is now year-round recreation programming, as well as for those who inspect buildings and construction sites.
“Taxes haven’t been raised since 2015, and the cost of living goes up; everything goes up – your gas, your electric, groceries – everything increases,” Welch said. “People have to realize that, sooner or later, we have to also raise taxes to stay with that cost of living. …
“We’re just doing the best we can.”
Even with raising taxes, total revenues would fall more than $270,000 short of expenses, requiring the Village Board to draw funds from its appropriated fund to balance the budget.
Of course, these numbers are, in many cases, just estimates. In the past two fiscal years, trustees predicted a budget deficit, but ultimately finished ahead and not needing to draw from bank reserves.
In the most recent budget, the board expected to be shy $180,000. Expenses were kept down, however, and, even with less revenue than projected, no appropriated fund monies were required.
In addition to the tax rate increase, the sewer rate is set to go up 5 cents per 100 cubic feet of usage, from $4.69 to $4.74. This adjustment is mandated as part of what is required from the village per its tri-community wastewater treatment plant partnership.
The water rate, meanwhile, is expected to remain at $3.70 per 100 cubic feet.
A public hearing on the budget will precede the regular meeting. Both gatherings will be held inside the Morgan Lewis Village Boardroom at the Red Brick Municipal Building, 145 N. Fourth St.
Trustees are not expected to vote on the budget on Monday; rather, the board will likely schedule a special meeting later in the month for the purpose of approving the financial plan.
The next fiscal year begins June 1.